Thursday 30 December 2010

Some 2010 highlights

OK folks, time for a round-up of some of the highlights of 2010:

Best albums

1. Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – I admit it, this album is obscene, misogynistic, aggressive (occasionally murderous), and generally morally depraved. It’s outrageously scandalous and hilariously funny in equal measure. It’s also a tour de force: a work of breathtaking musical intensity and lyrical inventiveness, with brilliant rhymes of Dylanesque proportions. Probably one of the best pop albums I’ve ever heard.
2. Bob Dylan, The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964 (The Bootleg Series Vol. 9)
3. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
4. Sufjan Stevens, The Age of Adz
5. The National, High Violet
6. Joanna Newsom, Have One on Me

Best films

1. The Social Network
2. A Prophet
3. The King’s Speech
4. Toy Story 3
5. Monsters
6. Chico and Rita

* Worst trends: 3D movies. (Honestly, two-dimensional black and white is far more immersive.)
** Most overrated: Inception. (I enjoyed it on the whole. But if you want a film that convincingly explores the texture of dreaming, see Waking Life; and if you want a film that compelling explores the relation between perception and reality, see Blowup.)

Best TV shows

American: Mad Men, Season 4 (Not as good as the first three seasons, but it's still the best show on television.)
British: Rev
Australian: Rake

Best books

Theology – John Flett, The Witness of God: The Trinity, Missio Dei, Karl Barth, and the Nature of Christian Community (Eerdmans); and Angel F. Mendez Montoya, The Theology of Food: Eating and the Eucharist (Wiley-Blackwell)

Biography – Avril Pyman, Pavel Florensky: A Quiet Genius: The Tragic and Extraordinary Life of Russia's Unknown da Vinci (Continuum)

Translations – Johannes Heckel Lex Charitatis: A Juristic Disquisition on Law in the Theology of Martin Luther (Eerdmans); and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison (Bonhoeffer Works Volume 8) (Fortress)

Political philosophy – Eric Nelsen, The Hebrew Republic: Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought (Harvard UP)

Memoir – Stanley Hauerwas, Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir (Eerdmans)

Literary criticism – Robert Alter, Pen of Iron: American Prose and the King James Bible (Princeton UP); and G. Douglas Atkins, T. S. Eliot and the Essay (Baylor UP)

Literature – I didn't read much new fiction this year, since I’ve been devoting myself to Latin American fiction. So my personal highlight of the year was reading (nearly) all the works of Roberto Bolaño – his big novel 2666 is a masterpiece, an epic of despair, that challenges the whole genre of the novel, and The Savage Detectives is also a stunning novel. Another highlight for me has been the huge new edition of the The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard.

Addendum: Jason's post reminds me that I forgot to mention Ernst Käsemann, On Being a Disciple of the Crucified Nazarene: Unpublished Lectures and Sermons (Eerdmans) – definitely one of the year's publishing highlights.


WTM said...

You got it right w/ref to John Flett's book.

David W. Congdon said...

I spent much of 2009 reading Bolaño's works. I absolutely loved 2666 - a remarkable work.

Just want to make a plug for Keith Johnson's "Karl Barth and the Analogia Entis." Has to be up there among the best 3 or 4 theology books of the year.

Anonymous said...

Re David: He could always become Christian.

Terry Wright said...

Glad someone else thought that Inception was good but overrated...

Danny said...

Joanna Newsom was way, way, way, better than Kanye, The National, Sufjan, Dylan, and Arcade Fire!!!!

Ben Myers said...

(I don't mean to be policemanlike, but I've deleted that first David's comment.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ben. I think Black Swan deserves to be on your list.

David W. Congdon said...

I'm guessing Black Swan hasn't been released in Australia, along with True Grit and a number of others.

I must also disagree with the notion that Inception is overrated. Look at the lists of top 10 films by critics and entertainment mags: virtually all of them place The Social Network at #1, and many of them leave Inception off the list altogether. I thought Social Network was a fantastic movie, but it is a better candidate, in my mind, for most overrated. Inception, ironically, seems to be one of the more underrated films, even if it didn't seem that way back in the summer.

Andy Browne said...

I agree with the Flett book. I get to read it again this coming semester. I am sure it will blow my mind again. I also look forward to reading the Hauerwas book at some point.

W. Travis McMaken said...

Oh yes, DWC is right about K Johnson's book.

Paul said...

I'm hoping LCD Soundsystem's This is Happening was album #7. And I thought Mad Men peaked this year.

Just my opinion, that's all.

Where do you find the time to read so much? Or how did you learn to read so rapidly? I'm envious.

Anonymous said...

Kanyeezy is a genius, a mad genius even, but I've always thought he should of stayed with producing beats rather than getting into lyrics. I love they way he presents some of his concepts -- the way he works with words and ideas -- but his delivery has always been just so-so. I am not saying you have to have a delivery like Jay Z, but still, I've always questioned his lyrical abilities.

But like you said, he is really off base with a lot of his thoughts, really just trying to feed off of what the pop culture "wants to hear" -- or thinks it wants to hear. Sometimes I wonder if pop stars forget that they actually help create what is meaningful for their audience, instead of just channeling to us what we want or desire. Like Marshal McLuhan said, "the medium is the message" -- and the coveted, prized medium of choice nowadays is radio and television.

-- You didn't have Robin Hood as one of your top movies of the year?! Great flick. My fav, hands down.

Nate Kerr said...


I don't know what the criteria are for your "best books" category, but as a work of poetry Patti Smith's autobiography/memoir of her life together with artist Robert Maplethorpe, Just Kids, is absolutely stunning. And quite honestly, I think the book is nothing if it is not to be read as an exercise in theological parable.

Akron Rick said...

The Kids are All Right is the most overrated movie.

darren said...

haven't had the time to write my highlights as yet but i'd reccomend paul kelly's book "how to make gravy" as one that sits at the top of the list for 2010, purchase it in the box set with the live performances of the songs and you'll be doubly blessed :)

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